Soothing art a change of scene

It’s hard not to lose yourself in the soothing blues and textures of Stuart Clues’ depiction of Lake Mackintosh.

It draws you in; distracts you. It transports you to another place. It calms, it soothes, and quietly demands your attention.

And that is all exactly as it’s meant to be for the consumers and staff of Calvary St Luke’s mental health unit in Launceston who chose the image.

The large acrylic painting is the end result of an improvement project that began with a family donation, enlisted the generous support of the well-known Tasmanian landscape artist, and actively sought input from clinic patients and staff.

Art has the ability to ease anxiety, stress and depression, eliminating the ‘institutional look’ that hospital inpatient units can often create, Clinical Nurse Manager Gaille Norton says.

“Art can distract people a bit from where they are in their journey,” she said.

“People tend to be inward focussed when they are experiencing mental health problems. Art like this that has real depth can help to take their minds off themselves and their own issues for a while.”

Known as Calvary Clinic, it is the only private mental health facility in northern Tasmania and offers a range of holistic and innovative treatment programs for inpatients and outpatients. It works with consumers and their carers to promote recovery and growth.

Adding art to the mix, registered nurse Ebony Youl (pictured with the artist) undertook the small scale consumer engagement project as part of her studies for a Graduate Diploma in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing.

Starting with a generous $1500 donation from the family of a past patient, Ebony did her research and ultimately approached the Hobart-based artist, whose works fetch considerably more and hang in collections in Australia and overseas. Stuart essentially gifted the difference, donating his time and talents to the cause. His picture framer did likewise.

“There are a lot of benefits having art in a mental health setting,” Ebony said. “Studies have shown that it can positively affect mood, and contributes to decreasing the amount of time patients spend in hospital as well as extra medications that may be needed to manage mood, anxiety or agitation.”

Before he put brush to canvas, Stuart provided photographic images of six different Tasmanian landscapes for the unit’s consumers and staff to choose from.

The image of Lake Mackintosh, in Tasmania’s west, was the number one choice.

“A lot of our consumers knew the scene, or were drawn to the combination of mountains and water, and they found the colours soothing and peaceful,” said Ebony.

“Everyone looks at it and sees something different.”

If people experiencing mental health problems look into the painting and see a future and hope on the horizon, all the better.


October is National Mental Health Month in Australia, an opportunity to raise awareness of mental health in our communities.
You can view more of Stuart Clues artwork at